A TALENT GONE TOO SOON: THE FILMS OF WILLIAM GIRDLER!

MZNJ_new_views

A TALENT GONE TOO SOON: THE FILMS

 OF WILLIAM GIRDLER!

WIlliam Girdler 1947 – 1978

photo: williamgirdler.com

William Girdler was a low budget filmmaker who made nine movies between 1972 and 1978. They were B-movies, rip-offs and exploitation flicks, but they were entertaining and displayed a man with a love for what he was doing. Name actors of the era, like Austin Stoker, Leslie Nielsen, Christopher George and Michael Ansara, worked with him on more than one film. A few of his titles are now considered cult classics. He not only directed, but wrote six of the films he made, produced two and wrote the score for three films, two of those, his own. His directing career started out with two low budget horrors, Asylum of Satan (1972) and 3 on a Meathook (1972), which were both filmed in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

What will this pretty girl (Sherry Steiner) find behind that door? 3 on a Meathook, perhaps?

His next three films were for prolific exploitation studio American International Pictures. They were Blaxploitation titles, The Zebra Killer (1974), the Exorcist rip-off Abby (1974), with William Marshall, and the Pam Grier detective flick Sheba, Baby (1975). Abby was on the way to big box office profits, on a mere $100,000 investment, when Warner Brothers sued to have it pulled from release, due to it’s similarities to William Friedkin’s classic. Girdler’s first five films were lensed in his native Kentucky.

The great William (Blacula) Marshall as Bishop Garnet Williams in Girdler’s Abby!

Girdler left Kentucky for the Philippines for his next film, the Leslie Nielsen action flick, Project Kill (1976). It’s the oft-told story of a lethally skilled soldier battling his protégée (Gary Lockwood). The film was an early Troma release. Girdler’s next two films were for Film Ventures International. They included the Jaws rip-off Grizzy (1976), his most financially successful picture, with a $39 million box office gross and the eco-horror Day of the Animals (1977).

The fifteen foot tall Grizzly from Girdler’s largest grossing film of the same name.

His final feature was for the legendary Avco Embassy Pictures and was The Manitou (1978) with Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Michael Ansara and Burgess Meredith. The Manitou was his most expensive film, budgeted at an estimated $3 million and was released a few months after his untimely death. It also was a box office success.

Michael Ansara and Tony Curtis set out to battle The Manitou!

Sadly, Girdler’s career was tragically cut short, when he was killed on January 21st, 1978 in a helicopter crash in the Philippines, while location scouting for his next project. His films were getting better from a production standpoint and even he once commented on his hands-on learning experiences making these movies…

“Other people learned how to make movies in film schools. I learned by doing it. Nobody saw Billy Friedkin’s or Steven Spielberg’s mistakes, but all my mistakes were right up there on the screen for everybody to see.” (Louisville Times, 1977)*

It’s a shame that an up and coming filmmaker like Girdler had his life and career cut short. Many highly regarded film talents, like James Cameron for one, got their start on movies like these. We may never know what he would have accomplished, if not for that tragic accident, but he has left behind a film legacy that B-movie fans will always cherish.

**************************************************

THE FILMS OF WILLIAM GIRDLER

**************************************************

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB and WIlliamgirdler.com

*quote from WIlliamgirdler.com

bars

BARE BONES: BLOOD QUANTUM (2019)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

BLOOD QUANTUM (2019)

Canadian zombie flick presents a novel twist on the popular sub-genre. It opens with a starkly effective scene of a fisherman’s gutted catch coming back to life and escalates from there. An outbreak of some kind has the dead returning to life and eating the living, while also infecting those they bite. It is, however, not affecting the Mi’gmaq people of the Red Crow reservation and now they must fight to survive against the growing horde from across the river. There is another conflict though…Red Crow Sheriff Taylor (Michael Greyeyes), wants to help survivors from outside the reservation, who obviously present a danger, while others feel they should fend for themselves. Now the tribespeople are split as the dead close in.

Film is written and very well directed by Indigenous Canadian filmmaker Jeff Barnaby. On a zombie film level, it has fast moving zombies, some fantastic and very abundant gore and some very impactful attack sequences, despite being part of an overpopulated sub-genre. What makes this stand-out, is the sometimes powerful commentary on the treatment of indigenous peoples and on the state of their own communities on the reservations. The metaphor of a people being overrun and their land taken by outsiders is certainly not lost here. The conflict between those wanting to abandon the outside world and those like Taylor who want to remain compassionate is very compelling. It’s a strong statement on human compassion, when those who have been treated terribly by others, in the face of crisis, risk and sometimes loose their own lives to help those who have never been kind to them. It gives an already solid and inventive zombie film a very effective emotional undercurrent. Add to that a strong cast of characters with indigenous actors playing indigenous peoples and you have one of the more unique and effective tellings of a very familiar story in quite a while. This is a very good example of how the horror genre can be used to portray important themes and messages while still being entertaining. Check it out on Shudder!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Nature run amok flick is one of many of this popular 70s sub-genre. Here a group of wilderness hikers are under siege from basically every animal in the park. The ozone layer depletion is the blame here, as the earth’s animals have had enough and decide to rid the planet of us pesky humans, starting with this bunch. Is there anywhere these folks can hide?

Flick is directed by WIlliam Girdler (Grizzly, Abby) from a script by Eleanor E. Norton and William W. Norton, based on a story by producer Edward L. Montoro. The film has a somewhat serious tone, which helps with such a silly story. Birds, bears, mountain lions and even rats are all on the attack and this group of campers and a remote mountain community are at ground zero. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as good as Girdler’s Grizzly and is a slow paced affair with most of the animal attacks coming across as more silly than scary. Shots of owls and other birds of prey staring at their potential snacks are fun and there is a mountain lion attack which works well enough, as does the wild pack of dogs in the last act. The bickering and whining between the panicking campers gets old quick and Leslie Nielsen’s alpha male, advertising executive engaging in a power struggle with nature guide Steve Buckner (Christopher George), gets a bit tiresome as well. Nielsen’s Jenson gets so over-the-top he becomes laughable. His bare-chested battle with a grizzly bear is extremely entertaining, though. The scenes of rival predators moving together as an army, under what appears to be the guidance of various birds of prey, do work better than they should. It’s too bad the animal attacks are few and far between, with things being far too talky for a flick like this. Too much melodrama and not enough mauling. Day of the Animals also ends very anti-climactically, when something with more “bite” would have served the film better.

Cast has a lot of 70s familiar faces. Christopher George is solid as nature guide Steve Buckner. Very much like his park ranger character from Grizzly. His wife Linda Day George, is a reporter. Leslie Nielsen is hilariously over-the-top as arrogant advertising exec Paul Jenson. This guy has issues and uses the situation to assert his perceived dominance. When the groups splinter, his abusive treatment of those dumb enough to follow him is hysterically tyrannical, as is his before mentioned bare chested battle with a grizzly bear. He definitely takes a badly written part into camp territory and not the camp one stays at when in such woods. Michael Ansara plays a Native American guide, a role the Lebanese actor played many times. He gives his Daniel Santee nobility and is the voice of reason between Buckner and Jenson. Richard Jaeckel is present as a professor and provides some possible scientific explanations. Rounding out is 70s TV and movie fixture Andrew Stevens and Robinson Crusoe on Mars star Paul Mantee as a cancer stricken athlete. A solid cast with not a lot to work with.

In conclusion, this could have been a lot better with a much better script. Grizzly proved Girdler could make a solid action flick, even from a derivative idea, as long as he had a good script. The film is very talky and very slow paced for a flick like this. The animal attacks range from effective to silly and it’s pretty tame bloodshed wise as it was a PG release. The character interaction gets tedious, as Leslie Nielsen’s tyrannical advertising executive gets ridiculous, despite an overall serious tone. There are a few moments and plenty of 70s nostalgia, but could have been a lot better.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2  (out of 4) rattle snakes.

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

BARE BONES: DISAPPEARANCE AT CLIFTON HILL (2019)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

 DISAPPEARANCE AT CLIFTON HILL (2019)

Canadian mystery opens with a family outing at a lake where little Abby (Mikayla Radan) thinks she’s witnessed a kidnapping. Twenty-five years later, an adult Abby (Tuppence Middleton) returns to Niagara Falls to receive her inheritance, after the death of her mother. Still haunted by what she saw, she begins to investigate. Abby finds a young boy (Colin McLeod) did disappear around that time, though the case was strangely determined a suicide, even without a body. Now Abby teams with a local conspiracy theorist (David Cronenberg) and starts digging into the town’s past to find out the truth…and there are some that may not like the past being disturbed.

Offbeat, indie mystery is well directed by Albert Shin from his script with James Schultz. It’s not your run-of-the-mill mystery, as Abby has her own issues and there are reasons her sister (Hannah Gross from Joker), or the police, aren’t in a hurry to believe her. There is a web of intrigue, she is slowly unraveling, that involves a local businessman (Eric Johnson), a shady couple (Elizabeth Saunders and Maxwell McCabe-Lokos) and the boy’s own parents, The Moulins (Marie-Josée Croze and Paulino Nunes), who are famous area magicians. Just when we…and Abby…think we have all the answers, Shin pulls the rug out from under us and changes our entire perception of the whos, whats, and whys. Like the Moulin’s act, nothing is as it appears. It’s methodically paced and moody, but the performances are very good, especially from lead Tuppence Middleton and David Cronenberg, who is usually behind the camera. The characters are refreshingly eclectic. Not perfect, but engaging and keeps you involved in Abby’s investigation. Available on streaming outlets such as Amazon Prime and Vudu.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

BARE BONES: WITCHES IN THE WOODS (2019)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

WITCHES IN THE WOODS (2019)

Extremely dull supernatural horror finds seven college kids all traveling together on a ski trip to rural Massachusetts. A tired cliché finds the road blocked by an accident and these geniuses deciding to take a short cut on an old mountain road to their destination. They get into an accident, stranding them in the middle of woods, where witches have been rumored to have dwelled. Of course, things start to go bump in the night and there is possible possession and some bloodshed, as these millennials start to take each other out and dwindle in number. Are there witches in the woods, or are these kids just going crazy?

Flick is competently directed by Jordan Barker from a derivative and uninventive script by Christopher Borrelli. The film is not scary, not suspenseful and far too familiar to be remotely interesting. The supernatural elements are boring and nothing we haven’t seen before. There is also some soap opera level melodrama going on between the characters that borders on just stupid. Why would a girl who was sexually assaulted by members of the football team, go on a ski trip with members of the football team…especially when they are members who were there that night? Even when trying to be socially relevant, this flick misfires. The cast are all attractive yet dull and their characters are all stereotypes we’ve seen many times before. Only thing to recommend here is some really great cinematography by Martin Wojtunik of the Canadian locations, subbing for New England. Available on Amazon if you absolutely must.

-MonsterZero NJ

Humerus-Bone1

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TOURIST TRAP (1979)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

TOURIST TRAP (1979)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1979 horror finds five friends, Molly (Jocelyn Jones), Becky (Tanya Roberts), Woody (Keith McDermott), Eileen (Robin Sherwood) and Jerry (Jon Van Ness) breaking down in the middle of nowhere and making their way to a strange off-road museum. The now closed attraction is run by kindly Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors) a widower who lives there with his brother Davey. What he fails to mention is that Davey is a doll-face mask wearing psycho who has telekinetic abilities and likes to turn people into mannequins. A minor detail, of course.

Charles Band production is directed by David Schmoeller from his script with J. Larry Carroll. It’s actually a creepy and disturbing little movie, despite the silly story. The scenes of telekinesis are handled about as well as could be and are effective as the already creepy mannequins seem to come to life. It’s no secret as to who “Davey” really is, the voice gives it away, but we go along with it anyway. Once we get the reveal it makes one wonder how he got around so much, but the goings on are creepy enough to entertain regardless. The film is PG, so there isn’t a lot of bloodletting, but it is violent and the death scenes have impact and it is yet another example of how much PG flicks got away with in the 70s. The minimal locations are effective, with the rooms filled with spooky dolls and mannequins, giving the film a lot of atmosphere, especially as captured by Nicholas von Sternberg’s lens. The film has a spooky score by the legendary Pino Donaggio, moves along well at just under 90 minutes and there are some nicely uncomfortable moments to chill us.

The cast of young attractive faces, including a pre-Charlie’s Angels Tanya Roberts, are fine in their roles as killer fodder. Jocelyn Jones makes a sweet girl-next-door, final girl as Molly and veteran actor Chuck Connors making for a disturbing psycho…which is no spoiler as we know from moment one, there really isn’t a “Davey.” A very unusual role for this veteran actor, but he totally goes for it and succeeds in creeping us out!

In conclusion, this is a very 70s, yet still very effective horror. Despite some silly story elements, such as the powers of telekinesis, the film is creepy, disturbing and atmospheric. It has a veteran actor giving us the willies in a very uncharacteristic role and a likable enough group of young characters/actors as his prey. It has some unsettling imagery and some effective deaths and is certainly worthy of it’s cult classic status.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) mannequin heads.

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

BARE BONES: 1BR (2019)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

1BR (2019)

Pretty Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) moves out on her own to LA. to escape some drama at home and start a new life. She moves into a gated community and soon finds out her dream apartment is a nightmare…one she may not escape.

Disturbing thriller is written and effectively directed by David Marmor. It’s an unsettling look at cults and their sometimes extreme methods of conditioning new prospects. Sarah is held prisoner and physically and mentally abused till she fits in as the perfect neighbor. The scenes of her “indoctrination” into the fold are not easy to watch, but Marmor knows when enough is enough and doesn’t linger on the unpleasantness. There is some cruelty and some violence, but we see just enough to have an effect, but not enough to numb us to it. Marmor balances it very well and it’s chilling to see unfold. Nicole Brydon Bloom is really good as Sarah, portraying an emotionally wounded young woman, who is vulnerable to her situation and needs to find her strength. Taylor Nichols is very good as the cult leader Jerry, a man who truly believes he is helping people. Same also goes for Giles Matthey, as a handsome young man who befriends Sarah with obvious ulterior motives. A well acted, well directed thriller that is a disturbing look at cults and their methods. It is a sometimes unpleasant watch, yet a very effective one.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Plot of the flick is fairly simple. When pesticides kill off their natural prey, the usually solitary tarantulas surrounding the remote town of Camp Verde, Arizona form a massive colony to attack larger prey such as farm animals and humans. Local veterinarian Rack Hansen (William Shatner) teams up with pretty arachnologist Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) to try to stop the wave of hungry spiders as it closes in on the town.

Nature run amok flick is directed by John “Bud” Cardos from a script by Alan Caillou and Richard Robinson. It’s a spooky flick with many chilling scenes, especially for those who might have a problem with spiders. Anyone with arachnophobia will definitely have a hard time here. This might possibly be Cardos’ best movie as he hits all the right notes and his straightforward directing style works perfectly, as a slow burn is what this story needs. A problem effecting one farm, slowly builds into an invasion of an entire town and it’s done very well. The presentation of armies of spiders is very effective and looks like hundreds were used in filming. There is also some decent enough make-up FX to simulate spider bites and who isn’t given the willies by seeing someone wrapped up in a web as a spider snack. There is suspense, tension and watching spiders pouring out of air vents or surrounding a little girl on her bed, are goose-bump inducing. There are a few cheesy FX, such as the matte paintings used during the still very effective climax, but otherwise this is a little movie that smartly stayed within it’s means and spent it’s $1 million budget well. By today’s standards it could be seen as tame and slow moving, but the restraint and pace does work in it’s favor. When things do happen it’s all the more effective.

Cast are really good here. Cardos even reigns in Shatner a bit. Sure Shatner plays his country veterinarian as a bit of a Romeo, but the character also has some depth, as he is a bit of a drinker and torn over the feelings he has for his dead brother’s widow, Terry (Marcy Lafferty). It makes him more of a human hero. Tiffany Bolling is good as the sexy scientist that catches Rack’s eye, as well as, investigates his spider problem. She stands on equal ground with the heroic veterinarian and it makes it interesting. The then Mrs. William Shatner, Marcy Lafferty, is sweet yet a bit emotionally troubled as Terry. She has feeling for Rack, too, but is still mourning and loyal to her husband, who died in the Viet Nam War. Again it gives the characters a little depth. Little Natasha Ryan is cute as Terry’s daughter and Rack’s niece Linda and legendary athlete turned actor Woody Strode is perfectly cast as a farmer with a serious arachnid problem.

In conclusion, this is a solid and sometimes chilling nature run amok flick. It keeps it’s story simple with nature, in the form of tarantulas, making lethal adjustments to their habits to counter man’s interference. The spider sequences are really well done and effective and director John “Bud” Cardos’ down to earth style, keeps the flick grounded, realistic and scary. The FX are effective, for the most part and the film knows how to give you the willies. A solid horror with a good cast of humans and spiders.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3  (out of 4) webs.

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

BARE BONES: ROOTWOOD (2018)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

ROOTWOOD (2018)

Low budget horror has a film producer (Felissa Sleepaway Camp Rose) hiring a pair of paranormal podcasters, Jessica and Will (Elissa Dowling from Automation and Tyler Gallant) to film a documentary about a rural legend called The Wooden Devil. Apparently, a woodsman made a deal with the Devil to save the Rootwood Forest from harm and he was hung for his demonic consorting. All these years later, people still go missing in the area and the two, along with their photographer Erin (Sarah French, also from Automation), are sent there to investigate. Obviously, it does not go well.

Flick tries hard as directed by Marcel Walz from a script by Mario von Czapiewski. As you can tell from the plot description, there is a lot of Blair Witch Project envy here and even though the film is not found footage, it evokes that film constantly. It’s not scary and follows that template for most of the flick, with noises in the night and stick and stone sculptures appearing out of nowhere. Yes, it does go in a different direction in the last few scenes and does get credit for that, but where it goes is more silly than scary and sullied further by some horrible overacting by the character involved. There is some very questionable behavior along the way. One character is so terrified at one point, that she leaves camp to walk home from the middle of nowhere, alone and with only a flashlight…yea, right. At least in this flick we get to see our creature and it’s not bad. The performances, however, are not as convincing, though the three leads are likable enough. It’s great to see filmmakers getting their movies done and seen, but effort isn’t always enough to a good movie make. Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick should be flattered that 21 years later folks are still using their film as a blueprint…not always successfully, though.

-MonsterZero NJ

Humerus-Bone1

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MUTANT (1984)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

MUTANT (1984)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Story for this flick is simple. Brothers Josh (Wings Hauser) and Mike (Lee Montgomery) are on a bonding getaway when they are forced off a rural road by a group of locals. This leads them to staying in a small town, one unfortunately close to a chemical dumping site. The chemicals are slowly changing the locals into vicious killers and when Mike disappears, Josh joins forces with cute teacher Holly (Jody Medford) and alcoholic sheriff Will (Bo Hopkins) to investigate. Soon it becomes a fight to survive as the infected locals multiply and overrun the town, killing everyone they come across.

Mutant is basically a zombie flick as directed by John “Bud” Cardos (The Day Time Ended, The Dark) from a script by Peter Z. Orton, Michael Jones and John C. Kruize. Cardos’ direction is rather straight forward and by-the-numbers, though it moves well enough. For a zombie film, it’s got minimal bloodshed, despite a high body count and really doesn’t crank up the action till the last act. It’s still a fun horror flick and there is plenty of 80s nostalgia now, all these years later. The zombies, or infected, are fast moving and their touch burns their intended victims, much like in the 1980 flick The Children, which also featured toxic chemical zombies. They also have an aversion to bright light and can be gunned down easily without the necessity for a head shot. There is also the usual out-of-towners vs redneck locals subplot, here, too, especially before anyone starts believing Josh that something is terribly wrong. Add to that a conspiracy/cover-up sub-plot that works well and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The last scene at the gas station is pretty intense and makes for a solid climax. On a production level, the film looks good and makes good use of it’s rural Georgia locations. The make-up FX, including some cool Howling-esque transformations, are well done. The zombies look scary and Cardos isn’t afraid to have children fall victim to them or become them. There is a low gore quotient, but the attacks still have impact. Flick also has some atmosphere and overall is a good time.

It has a fun cast. Wings Hauser is his usual bug-eyed self and it’s fun to see him play a good guy, as he is best known for portraying the psychotic pimp “Ramrod” in 1982’s Vice Squad. Jody Medford makes for a very likable heroine as local school teacher and bartender, Holly. Despite being attractive and charming, she only did one other movie, Chained Heat. Veteran actor Bo Hopkins is also solid as the drunk sheriff, who sort of transforms into a noble hero over the course of the film. The supporting cast are all fine in their roles, including Lee Montgomery (Burnt Offerings) in the brief role of Mike and Close Encounters of the Third Kind’s Cary Guffey as student Billy.

In conclusion, this was a surprisingly good time on the revisit. Actually caught this flick in a theater in 1984 and was disappointed, back in the day, that it wasn’t more in the style of Dawn of the Dead or Zombie. With those expectations gone, it’s now a nostalgic and fun monster movie and one of the earliest films to portray it’s zombies as more fast moving and vicious. Cardos may not have been the most stylish director, but his workman approach suits the small town setting and rural local characters and keeps the film grounded. A fun zombie flick that does things a little different.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) permed and bug-eyed Wings Hausers.

 

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars